New echinoderm-crab epibiotic associations from the coastal Barents Sea.
During diving surveys for a Russian research project that monitored introduced species, red king crabs (Paralithodes camtschaticus) were collected at a coastal site of the Barents Sea to study the structure and dynamics of this species. Sampling of the organisms colonizing the crabs was part of this research project. For the first time, the presence of relatively large specimens of the common starfish Asterias rubens as epibionts of P. camtschaticus was observed in July 2010, 2018, and 2019. In 2010 and 2019, we also found three other echinoderm species (the Atlantic sea cucumber Cucumaria frondosa, the green sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, and the brittle star Ophiura sarsii). These findings add to the current list of associated species on king crabs not only in the Barents Sea but also in native areas of this host. Red king crabs have been documented as predators for these echinoderm species, and our records show additional possible interactions between king crabs and echinoderms in this region. More likely, the epibiotic lifestyle allows these echinoderms to avoid predation from red king crabs. There are no potential disadvantages derived by red king crabs through their relationships with the echinoderm epibionts due to low occurrences of these associations. We suggest no negative effects for the local red king crab population and populations of other commercial species in the Barents Sea.